Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Public invited to view plan for widening portions of Huntsville Road and Fifteenth Street from 4 to 7 p.m. today

People interested in protecting Northwest Arkansas' two major watersheds, in this case, the watershed of the Town Branch of the West Fork of the White River and Beaver Lake, need to turn out and make sure that the planners are taking into account the potential affect of this project on water quality and the need for stormwater retention to avoid increasing the flooding and erosion threat downstream.

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Please use controls and cursor to move the image, zoom in or out and trace the whole route to be discussed this afternoon.

Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department officials will reveal the first phase of design for widening a 2.7-mile stretch of Arkansas 16 between S. College Avenue and Stonebridge Road to four lanes and installing a traffic light at the Stonebridge intersection, east of Crossover Road from 4 to 7 p.m. in the activity center of Fayetteville First Assembly of God at 550 E. 15th St. There won't be a presentation; residents can look at displays, ask questions and give feedback verbally or on survey forms, The Northwest Arkansas Times reported in its March 31, 2009, edition.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Doug Timmons still leading the charge to protect Beaver Lake in Benton County

Doug Timmons is a former president of Association for Beaver Lake Environment.
Thank you, Doug. We in Washington County are also very interested in maintaining the highest quality of water entering the White River and Beaver Lake.
People in our county (including this member of ABLE and participant in two of the focus groups of the Beaver Lake Policy Group) are still shaking their heads over a conditional-use permit issued by Washington County Quorum Court to allow a red-dirt farm to become a limestone quarry expected to last 70 years in a barely rural neighborhood, despite the outcry of the neighbors. The JPS actually voted down some of the weak restrictions recommended by its planning officials.
Don't expect county government to help fight pollution of our watershed much at this point.
But plenty of people here agree exactly with what you wrote. We are making progress under our new mayor. So Fayetteville likely will do its part.
Aubrey James Shepherd

Doug Timmons wrote on March 29, 2009:
To my fellow ABLE members,

Many of you might not be aware that the Northwest Arkansas Council (the good ole boys) has hired Tetra Tech to study the Beaver Lake watershed and to facilitate the development of a Beaver Lake Watershed Management Plan. They formed a Beaver Lake Watershed Policy Advisory Group (PAG) that is made up of different stakeholders. Acting ABLE President Tony Miltich has been participating on this PAG since I had resigned from the ABLE board but I have been monitoring this PAG and have continued to receive reference materials that Tetra Tech has been developing.

I was suspicious of this PAG from the beginning because many of the stakeholders on the PAG have not proven to be interested in protecting Beaver Lake in the past, and some have worked against protecting the lake (such as the NW Arkansas Property Rights group). I had communicated this suspicion with the ABLE board on several occasions but we wanted to participate to make sure that the goals of the PAG were truly to protect the lake. Representation includes Tyson, lake area JP Frank Winscott (who hasn’t been a friend of Beaver Lake), the Beaver Water District (BWD), a developer or two, the head of the Bentonville Chamber (who supported Grandview Heights condos), the NW Arkansas Property Rights group (who fight any type of local regulation), etc. I think you get my drift here, that many of these people haven’t proven to be Beaver Lake friendly in the past.

My fears and suspicions have recently been confirmed. I attended a recent PAG meeting on March 25th as an observer. Tony was there as the official ABLE representative. The problem starts with the goals that were developed by the PAG. The goals are as follows:
Maintain high quality water supply (no argument with this one)
Restore quality of impaired streams (no argument with this one)
Minimize additional costs (I have a problem with this one)
Minimize additional regulations (I have a bigger problem with this one)
Cost Effectiveness (more in a moment)
Risk of future impairment to streams (no problem with this one)

Now, when the main goal is supposed to be protecting Beaver Lake from further water quality degradation, number 3 & 4 above shouldn’t receive much weight. The major goal should have been stated as… “What actions are required and by who, and how much will it cost stakeholders to protect Beaver Lake from further water quality degradation”?

Well, Tetra Tech presented four different strategies that were made up of various types of best management practices (BMP’s) and actions needed to achieve a percentage of sediment and phosphorous reduction needed to protect the lake. Of the four strategies, the first two relied mostly on voluntary measures and education, and completely ignored any regulation for developers, both during construction and post construction. Not surprisingly, those two strategies were not effective in protecting the lake, option 1 achieved only 30%, and option 2 achieved only 50% of the targets for reducing sedimentation and phosphorous. That means if those two options are adopted, the lake will continue to get dirtier and more polluted. I asked a question of Tetra Tech to confirm that fact and to make sure everyone understood that and Tetra Tech confirmed it in front of everyone. However, Tetra Tech tried to steer the group to option 2 because it was supposedly the most cost effective and didn’t include any regulations. Tony Miltich, myself, and one or two others spoke up forcefully against any strategy that doesn’t “hold the line” on current water quality. Others in the room didn’t seem so anxious to support option 2 (except the NW Arkansas Property Rights Group) because it didn’t really do the job of protecting the water. It seemed obvious to me that Tetra Tech was producing exactly the kind of options that would allow the good ole boys in the NWA Council to pat themselves on the back and say they are taking action to protect the lake. Lake area JP Frank Winscott spoke up and didn’t even think the Quorum Court would support option 2 because of the cost and certainly was against options 3 & 4 (even though they were the only options that would “hold the line” on current water quality. Option 3 achieved 75% of sedimentation reduction and 95% of phosphorous reduction. Option 4 achieved 95% sedimentation reduction and 121% phosphorous reduction!

The bottom line here is that it will cost money to “hold the line” on water quality. The Tetra Tech study estimated that it will cost about $40 million per year for option 3 and $59 million per year for option 4. I will stick to option 4 which is the best option to protect the lake. This $59 million included about $14 million that property owners would be responsible to maintain post-construction BMP’s on new development. This is not single family, single owner home construction we are talking about but new commercial development such as subdivisions, commercial development etc. The property owners could be businesses, POA’s of new subdivisions, etc. Farmers would only have a very small responsibility of about $1 million that would be for BMP’s such as pasture maintenance. Developers would have a large burden because the new development is what will cause a large percentage of the sedimentation and additional phosphorous in the future. They would have a responsibility for $26 million, which was estimated at $7,700 per 1 acre. Those costs would pay for construction BMP’s like dry retention ponds, or low impact development practices. That cost would be expected to be passed through to purchasers of the property, which in my opinion, is how it should be. Very similar to an impact fee. Local water suppliers like BWD would be responsible for $4 million for BMP’s. Local government’s costs would be $10 million for unpaved road improvements, storm-water program administration, and BMP’s. State government could provide grants estimated to $1 million and Federal government grants could provide an estimated $6 million. Now, if you really dig into these numbers, you would eliminate the grant monies because local people would not be on the hook for those monies, and you could eliminate the developer’s costs because those would be absorbed by new property owners. So, that leaves a total annual cost estimate of $26 million. There are 300,000 current water users in this region so if you do the math, that cost equates to $86 per year for each water user, or $7 a month added to a monthly water bill. Option 3 would cost less but doesn’t provide as much protection as option 4. Keep in mind that these “per user” costs would actually go down over time because the area population is expected to grow.

Is $7 a month too much to protect Beaver Lake? I don’t think so. If you think so, consider that a dirty and polluted Beaver Lake will reduce your property values, as tourists quit coming to the area, which means fewer people looking to relocate to this region. Cost will always be an excuse for not taking appropriate action unless the people make their voices heard. JP Winscott doesn’t think the QC will support this cost because he only hears from a few loud property rights people on a regular basis. All he hears from them is NO to anything the county tries to do. The silent majority needs to become more involved so that we have more say in our futures.

If option 3 or 4 is not adopted by the PAG, you can expect dirtier water in the future, that is beyond dispute now that the science is documented. The study stated that the water quality is good, has gotten worse over the previous years, and will continue to steadily degrade over time unless option 4 is adopted. I view this whole exercise as flawed because they are presenting false choices to the PAG to protect the lake, and calling option two the most “cost effective” option. I reject that because there is nothing effective about a plan that will only do half of what you need it to do. I also do not understand the goal #4 being included, because there are no local regulations that protect Beaver Lake. Voluntary measures are great, but won’t do the job, and some storm-water regulations are badly needed. Of course people want the cheapest possible way to achieve a goal, but if the goal is to protect the lake, to “hold the line” on water quality, then the only options discussed should be those options that actually “hold the line”. Any discussion about cost can occur after the needed actions are defined.

Please contact your JP, especially JP Frank Winscott, and let them know that you expect them to do what is necessary to protect the lake, to “hold the line” on water quality. Let them know it is not acceptable to allow Beaver Lake to become any more polluted. Letter to the editor are very good at communicating public opinion and I would encourage you all to do that. I will attach the copies of the reports that Tetra Tech distributed to the PAG. The reports contain some tremendous information you will find interesting.

Thank you for your support in protecting Beaver Lake!

Doug Timmons
Former ABLE President and current ABLE member

Friday, March 27, 2009

Severed limb budding at end. Birds and squirrels and rabbits may eat them

Here is the caption with the photo of limbs burning in Benton County:
Up in smoke:
Benton County employee Harvey Johnson watched a fire at 10791 Stoney Point Road near Lowell on Thursday. The county is burning limbs and trees broken by this winter’s ice storm. Other burn sites are at 9900 Marchant Road in Elm Springs, 21447 Waukesha Road in Siloam Springs and 19941 Bettis Hill Road near War Eagle. Washington County is also burning ice-storm debris on North 40th Street in Springdale. DAVID FRANK DEMPSEY / Benton County Daily Record

If no one in either county had a fireplace or a wood stove, this might seem slightly less ridiculous.
I hope a lot of people who can use firewood or who would collect it and sell it will be at those sites before more is burned and load it up and take it away.
This wood would save people money, reduce air pollution now and save the carbon in these limbs for actual home heating and reduce global climate change (because people with wood stoves and fire places will be buying wood next fall and reducing the tree cover even more in Northwest Arkansas).
Additionally, birds and squirrels are eating buds on those limbs where they are lying. In fact, many large limbs or trunks lying separated from the main trunk for nearly two months are budding right now! So wildlife are having to search a bit more for food, which may be tough for birds facing nesting season.
Burning material with this much value is WRONG.
It is even worse than chipping it all. This is incredibly wasteful and inconsiderate of people and other living things. I am proud to live in Fayetteville where an effort is being made to separate potential firewood for sharing and where the rest is being chipped rather than burned.
This is an example of the need for cross-training and keeping all environmental enforcement under one big umbrella. Apparently, it would be the responsibility of the EPA to see that FEMA's requirements for subsidizing "cleanup" efforts meet environmental guidelines. But I would bet that the EPA has had no input in the cleanup efforts. Otherwise, they would have required sound environmental use of the downed trees and limbs.
And, if there were any budgetary control of FEMA, their pet contractors would be required to compact and compress the loads of loose limbs in their trailers and trucks before claiming a load is full and counting it on the basis of cubic yards.
If you take waste metal to a steel yard or aluminum-recycling facility, you will have your vehicle weighed and then weighed again after the workers pull off what can be recycled. They don't pay more for half-empty truckloads or uncrushed cans that fill a big bag. The scales tell the story.
Should the taxpayers support a system that rewards only selected contractors and ignores the value of the material being destroyed in the pretense of "cleaning up" after a disaster? And requires the hiring of "inspectors" or whatever from different pet companies to make sure the trucks aren't overfilled?
My questions aren't original. I have heard these questions from residents of Fayetteville who are offended by the appearance of poor management and waste.
The city can't ask these questions because the EPA MIGHT look into the problem and FEMA MIGHT delay reimbursement of the city for the work that took a big chunk out of the city's reserve fund.
But somebody has to ask why they don't just weigh the loads and pay and reimburse on the results. My neighbors have asked.

Beaver Lake Watershed Policy Group weak on true protection of watershed

The Morning News

Local News for Northwest Arkansas

Beaver Lake Policy Group Developing Plan

By Caleb Fort
A group dedicated to creating a plan to protect Beaver Lake discussed several options at its meeting Thursday, including voluntary programs and increased regulation on developers.

The Beaver Lake Watershed Policy Advisory Group agreed to look further into a strategy revolving around voluntary land conservation plus a host of other measures to prevent sedimentation and phosphorous pollution of the lake.

The group, which met for the first time in May, is supposed to finalize a plan by midsummer.

The proposed plan would cost at least $15 million per year, paid for by property owners, farmers, developers, water suppliers and the government, according to estimates from Tetra Tech, a California environmental consulting firm that has guided the advisory group.

The conservation program would encourage conservation easements, in which a landowner agrees not to develop certain property.

The plan would also include voluntary measures such as better construction site management, pasture improvements and improvements to dirt roads.

After the group has created a recommended policy, the members will probably try to establish a regional organization to oversee implementation, said Mike Malone, executive director of the Northwest Arkansas Council.

The regional organization could monitor the success of the policies and add more stringent requirements if necessary, said Trevor Clements of Tetra Tech.

Kimberly Brewer, associate director of Tetra Tech, presented four scenarios including combinations of voluntary programs and strict construction requirements around the lake.

The cheapest scenario would cost about $15 million a year, Brewer said. The most expensive would cost about $59 million a year, but would be the most effective at preventing pollution, she said.

Some group members, including Tony Miltich, who represents the Association for Beaver Lake Environment, said Beaver Lake is important enough that the group should pursue the most expensive option.

But others, including Justice of the Peace Frank Winscott, R-southeastern Benton County, said it would be difficult to convince Northwest Arkansans to go along with some of the more expensive and strict regulations.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Doug Timmons shares his view of the planning for the protection of Beaver Lake

Hello to All,
Most of you probably don't know me because I wasn't able to participate with this group as was originally planned. I am a lake property owner and very interested in preserving Beaver Lake, which means I do not want to see the water quality further degraded. The Tetra Tech study is good, good data identifying needed target measures regarding sedimentation, phosphorous and nitrogen.
When the Beaver Lake Watershed Policy Advisory Group (PAG) was first formed, my fear was that the PAG would develop a strategy that would allow further degradation of the water quality. Since the creation of Beaver Lake, our local leaders have not had the foresight to take any actions to protect the lake so I was suspicious that this would be a sham that would allow this PAG and our local leaders to pat themselves on the back claiming they are leading in the effort to protect Beaver Lake.
If you look at page 9 of the Phase 2 cost analysis, Tetra Tech clearly points to Strategy 2 because of the lower cost and lower regulations associated with that approach. Never mind that it only achieves about 50% of the recommended protection targets!!! The Strategy is supposed to be protecting the lake, but it is obvious that keeping the costs as low as possible is more important than truly protecting the lake, and heaven forbid we have to enact any regulations/ordinances! Strategies 1 and 2 will not protect the lake as needed, and will allow further degradation to the water quality. That should not be acceptible to anyone!
I have no idea why a goal of a group developing a lake protection plan includes minimizing additional regulations as a goal (especially considering there are not many existing regulations). That should have never been entered as a goal, maybe a desire, but certainly not a goal. It is not realistic to think voluntary measures alone will achieve the goal of protecting Beaver Lake. While cost is obviously important, when you are developing a lake protection strategy, the emphasis should first be on protecting the lake, not the cost. This study seems to be putting the emphasis on cost and ideology against regulation.

If the PAG is truly interested in protecting Beaver Lake, I would strongly encourage you to recommend strategy 3 or preferably strategy 4 because those are the only strategies that truly protect the lake. The public is going to know the results of this study and will know what the PAG decides so I trust the PAG will do the right thing. I hope I am wrong and worried about nothing, because I know some of you have put a lot of effort into this PAG. Protecting Beaver Lake should be a top priority for this entire region, and taking half measures that won't protect the lake should not be tolerated by anyone. I hope you all feel the same way and will fight for strategies 3&4.
Doug Timmons

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports on the Beaver Lake Policy Group's activities

Democrat-Gazette story on Beaver Lake
watershed planning

More on the watershed

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Watershed information

Beaver Lake watershed IDEAS

Beaver Lake watershed solutions

Please click on images to ENLARGE view of Joyce Hale and James Gately at the Beaver Lake Watershed focus-group meeting. Hale represents the League of Women Voters, the Sierra Club and other environmental groups and recently pushed legislation through the Arkansas General Assembly to encourage protection of stream riparian zones in the state. Gately is a strong advocate of protecting Beaver Lake Watershed and is a member of the Association of Beaver Lake Environment.

Group meets today in Springdale to focus on draft of management plan for watershed of Beaver Lake

Mike Malone wrote:
This is a reminder about the Wednesday, March 25, focus group meeting with Tetratech to discuss the status of the Beaver Lake Watershed Management Plan that they have been helping facilitate. This follow-up focus group meeting with conservation and recreational representatives will take place on Wednesday, March 25 at 3 pm in the Chicago Room (room 220) of the Jones Center for Families in Springdale. They want to gather feedback on some of the management options that they have been developing for the watershed.
Mike Malone

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Focus group to discuss plan for Beaver Lake

On Wednesday, March 25th, you are invited to a focus group meeting with Tetratech to discuss the status of the Beaver Lake Watershed Management Plan that they have been helping facilitate. This follow-up focus group meeting with conservation and environmental representatives will take place on Wednesday, March 25th at 3pm in the Chicago Room (room #220) at the Jones Center for Families in Springdale. They want to gather your feedback on some of the management options that they have been developing for the watershed.

I believe each of you participated in the first focus group meeting Tetratech convened a few months back. If you have suggestions for other folks who should be included in this focus group, please let me know or pass this invitation along to them.

Tetratech has put together a series of newsletters to update you and other focus group members on the status of the project. I will distribute some of the newsletters attached to this message and others attached to another message early next week.

Please let me know if you have any questions and whether you will be able to attend the meeting on Wednesday, March 25th at 3pm.

Thank you!

Mike Malone
387-5590 (cell)